A Long Weekend in Costa Rica


Costa Rica Itinerary

By Nicole
To be honest, I was kind of nervous about our trip to Costa Rica.  Would it be too humid? Would there be enough to do?  Would I be attacked by mosquitoes?  All my fears were allayed once I arrived at our beautiful resort and soaked in the breathtaking views of the Gulf of Papagayo.  During this vacation, we lazed by the beach but also drove inland to enjoy the hot springs at the base of the Arenal Volcano.  One of my favorite trips to-date, this long weekend is a perfect getaway for those seeking relaxation and adventure packed into one destination.
Duration: 5 days / 4 nights
Accommodations: Andaz Peninsula Papagayo Resort, Tabacon Grand Spa Thermal Resort
Before You Go: Confirm your passport is up-to-date, buy bug spray and sunscreen

♦♦♦ A Must   |   ♦♦ Recommended   |   ♦ Point of Interest

Day 1 – Arriving in Costa Rica

From Newark we flew to Liberia, which took just under 6 hours. From the airport, we arranged for a private airport transfer, which cost around $40 and took us directly to our resort. Within a half an hour we had reached our destination.

♦♦♦ Andaz Peninsula Papagayo Resort. This resort is incredible. We were graciously welcomed upon check-in with cool, fruity beverages and were whisked away to our room in a golf cart. Our driver even walked us to our door and showed us around.

Inside, we had unobstructed views of the bay from the bedroom to the bathroom. On our private patio we had a couch to lounge on and the ability to roll down a screen for privacy or to keep bugs away. As an added bonus, the resort provided a complimentary mini bar restocked daily and sun hats for the beach.

Although we planned to remain on the resort for the duration of our stay, there were plenty of activities to keep us busy, including yoga and cooking classes and a shuttle service that connected the Andaz with the neighboring Four Seasons resort where guests could enjoy those facilities as well.

The best part of staying at the Andaz is that it was free! Using my free anniversary night from my Hyatt Visa card and 15,000 Chase Sapphire points per night (more information these cards in my article here), we did not pay for our room that otherwise would have cost $600+ per night. I highly recommend this resort, especially at this point conversion level.

Tips: While the dining options in both the Andaz and Four Seasons resorts are plentiful and delicious, eating every meal at restaurants can get expensive. I recommend picking up some groceries and liquor on the way to the resort to supplement dining out.

Also, seriously don’t forget bug spray. I learned my lesson by being eaten alive by mosquitoes, generally in the evening hours. I was able to purchase some at the Four Seasons – but for $20 a bottle! Save yourself some suffering and money by packing some before you go.

  • Andaz Peninsula Papagayo Resort

    A View from Our Room at the Andaz Peninsula Papagayo Resort

  • Welcome Treat at Andaz Papagayo

    Welcome Treat at Andaz Papagayo

  • Andaz Papagayo Resort Grounds

    Andaz Papagayo Resort Grounds

  • Papagayo Beach

    Papagayo Beach

Day 2 & 3 – Enjoying Papagayo

This might have been my first vacation I didn’t have a strict itinerary for, surprise! So over the next two days, our days consisted of a combination of the following.

♦♦ Rio Bhongo for Breakfast. I love buffets, so we had the breakfast buffet at Rio Bhongo every morning we were there. The restaurant had a wide variety of pastries and traditional hot foods (eggs, bacon, sausage, etc.) and featured an omelette station, but it also boasted an array of fresh fruit and juices. I had platefuls of papaya, pineapple, and watermelon – all so ripe and tremendously sweet. I only docked a diamond from the rating because of the price, which was around $40 per person. However, filling up for breakfast allowed us to eat lighter lunches, which I guess is a good thing.

♦♦♦ Snorkeling. The Andaz provided free snorkeling gear for its guests, and the water was perfect for using it. The warm, calm, and clear conditions made spotting all different types of fish easy, especially around the shallow rocky areas. Highly recommend this activity.

♦♦♦ Happy hour at Chao Pescao. Chao Pescao is one of the three restaurants at the Andaz, and it serves great drinks. They do not have a daily happy hour, so be sure to note on your calendar when they do to take advantage of half-priced drinks. Additionally, on Saturday nights there is live music at the bar.

♦♦♦ Four Seasons Papagayo. To mix it up, we ventured over to the Four Seasons for a steak dinner at Caracol, which the Andaz front desk was able to secure a reservation for. Dinner was delicious, and we had requested a seat on the patio where we sat in open air and gazed at the stars in between bites of rib eye. Overall, for comparison, I would compare the Four Seasons to a nice Las Vegas resort with flashy dining options, whereas the Andaz is more like an secluded upscale treehouse. Both are stunning and great in different ways.

♦♦ Jet skiing in the bay. Before Papagayo, I had never been on a jet ski before in my life. With some convincing, I finally decided to see what it was like, so J and I rented one for half an hour. This was enough time to drive out to near the mouth of the bay and back. Views of the mountains and waters were amazing, and the water was choppy enough to have a few fun jumps but not too much to be uncomfortable. The jet ski rental was an additional fee but worth it for those who are looking for an exciting activity.

♦♦ Massages at Onda. As if we needed to be more relaxed than we already were, we booked a one-hour couples massage at the Onda Spa. Although pricey, the massage was a quality experience. We were given comfortable robes to change into and the choice of background music to be played during the treatment. The couples massage rooms were located higher up in the resort for a clear view of the bay.

  • Andaz Papagayo Peninsula Resort - Pool View

    Andaz Papagayo Peninsula Resort – Pool View

  • Andaz Papagayo Peninsula Resort - Wooded Beach Area

    Andaz Papagayo Peninsula Resort – Wooded Beach Area

  • Sunset in the Bay

    Sunset in the Bay

Day 4 – Tabacon

For the last part of our long weekend in Costa Rica, we booked a room at the Tabacon Grand Spa, located near the base of the Arenal Volcano. To get there, we rented a car with GPS directly from the Andaz resort for around $100, which we could drop off at the airport on our way back.

The drive took about 4 hours. All the roads along the way were paved; however, half of the drive was very hilly and winding and at times rainy, which made the journey a bit more difficult than anticipated.

♦♦♦ Tabacon Grand Spa Thermal Resort. Rain was falling steadily when we arrived at the Tabacon, but we didn’t let that hold us back from exploring the the thermal hot springs. Since we were guests at the resort, we had free access to the hot springs and shuttle transportation between the two. Tip: If you are staying at the resort, take your robe from your room with you to the hot springs! At the hot springs, you are only given one towel with admission, which gets wet quickly when you enter and exit pools frequently. It’s nice to have a robe to put on to keep warm and dry.

The first thing I saw when we entered the hot springs was a generic looking pool with a water slide. I scoffed in my head, “This is cheesy, this whole place is probably cheesy!” Unimpressed, I followed J to the locker room area to store my belongings and pick up my towel and then began walking through the grounds. As we wandered around further, I was blown away at the natural beauty of the foliage and waterfalls and the steam enshrouding it all. Although it was raining, the trees provided a natural canopy. We strolled around aimlessly, hopping into streams of steaming water as we pleased. The whole experience was incredibly relaxing.

♦♦ Los Tucanes. For dinner we made late reservations at Los Tucanes at the resort. In open air and surrounded by the rainforest, we enjoyed our dinner while listening to a live classical guitar music. As dining options in the area are limited, this restaurant is popular with guests so make reservations here in advance with the front desk.

  • Entrance to Tabacon Hot Springs

    Entrance to Tabacon Hot Springs

  • Tabacon Thermal Hot Springs

    Tabacon Thermal Hot Springs

  • Tabacon Thermal Hot Springs

    Tabacon Thermal Hot Springs

Day 5 – Heading Back Home

In the early morning, we were back in our car on way to the airport. It was easy for us to drop it off at the car rental station where a shuttle was available to take us to the airport right away.

Important note: You will be charged a departure tax of $29 per person at the airport! This completely caught us off-guard. Be sure to have cash available to pay this, otherwise you’ll be charged a hefty cash advance fee if you pay by credit card .

I loved my quick trip to Costa Rica. I would recommend this itinerary to anybody and cannot speak highly enough of the Andaz Peninsula Papagayo Resort. Unfortunately, due to the weather, we had to cancel our zip-lining excursion at Arenal that we had booked through Sky Adventures and we did not actually get to see the volcano, which are both things I hope to accomplish on my next trip back.

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